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 Since the company was founded in 1996, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have worked hard to live up to the company’s unofficial motto, “Do no evil.” Since the company was founded in 1996, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have worked hard to live up to the company’s unofficial motto, “Do no evil.”Google has just announced on its official blog nine improvements to Google+, including some fairly major ones. For those into Google+’s Hangouts, you’ll now be able to participate in them on your cellphone, if your phone is an Android 2.3+ device with a front-facing camera, though Google promises iOS support is coming soon.

Additionally, they’ve added a feature called Hangouts on Air, which isn’t a “hangout” at all so much as it is a broadcast meant for a larger audience, with a limited number of “broadcasters” enabled to start with (and we’re willing to bet that one of those lucky few will be Robert Scoble, an avid Google+ user).

Hangouts have also gotten a few other extra useful features such as screensharing, a sketchpad for doodling, Google Docs support, and the ability to name Hangouts.

Google has also released a basic set of APIs for Google+, and, best of all, opened the service up to everyone with a Google account.

By Laura June, Published: September 20

Netflix has taken a bit of a hit for the first time since it embraced the Internet as a means of distribution. But there is enough to suggest this is a minor blip, and that the company’s longterm future is not only assured but rosy.

Unexpected?

Netflix has had an amazing last few years, transitioning from a DVD-by-mail company into a streaming video company, and gaining millions of new customers as a result of this strategy.

However, nothing ever lasts for ever, and the incredible run of growth upon growth now seems to be slipping out of Netflix’ grasp. It has lowered its guidance on domestic subscriber numbers from 25 million customers to 24 million. This may not seem like much but it is for a company that has been exceeding expectations for a long period.

As a result of the new guidance, Netflix stock tanked on Thursday (Sept. 15) morning, dropping around 15 percent to $177-per-share. At the time of writing it has slipped further to $159-per-share.


Guidance Figures

The figures actually make for interesting reading. The biggest drop is in those subscribing to receive DVDs in the mail. Streaming is only taking a slight hit. And the number of people choosing the dual option remains the same, despite this being the group hit hardest by the recent price increases.

This means people aren’t ditching Netflix in droves as a result of the price increase. Which, lest we forget, saw people who want both DVDs and streaming options now paying two lots of $7.99 rather than a combined $9.99. Netflix should see this as a positive, and judging by a brief note attached to the new guidance, does. It states the reasons for the price increases as follows:-

(1) to create a dedicated DVD rental division that takes pride in great execution and maximizes the opportunity for disc rental over the coming decade;
(2) to enable us to improve our global streaming service even more rapidly, because it is not meshed with a domestic DVD business;
(3) to enable us, with the growth in revenue, to license more streaming content and thereby improve our streaming service even more;
(4) to remain very price aggressive, with $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming of a huge library of TV shows and movies, and $7.99 per month for unlimited DVD rentals, 1 out at-a-time.

The Future…

Netflix is clear on its strategy going forward, and I have to say it makes sense. I can understand the frustration felt by people suddenly faced with paying 60 percent more every month, but there is the option to choose either DVDs or streaming and actually end up paying less.

If Netflix’ stock stabilizes quickly then I can’t see this being a major problem. If it doesn’t? Then your guess is as good as mine.

Republicans questioned Thurs­day why the Federal Communications Commission fast-tracked an initial approval for a company — well-connected among Democrats — to provide cellphone service through satellites, a technology that other agencies say disrupts Global Positioning System devices, hurricane-tracking systems, and military and commercial airlines.

The FCC gave a crucial green light for Reston-based LightSquared in January without a full commission vote, despite warnings from companies and federal agencies that the satellite network would harm communication systems crucial to national security and public safety, GOP lawmakers said. But the FCC has defended its process, saying it has led to better understanding of a promising technology.

At a House hearing Thursday, Republicans criticized the FCC for not using its own engineers to examine whether LightSquared’s technology posed interference issues. The agency relied on tests run by the company and the GPS industry. Separately, in a letter, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the FCC has refused to answer his questions or hand over e-mails and other correspondence between LightSquared and the agency.

“Persistent stonewalling only raises more questions and heightens suspicion regarding the FCC’s actions,” Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Without transparency, and with media coverage of political connections in this case, there’s no way to know whether the agency is trying to help friends in need or really looking out for the public’s interest.” The FCC has told Grassley his committee does not oversee the agency and such requests should come from the appropriate lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has yet to look into the matter.

An FCC spokeswoman added that the agency granted expedited approval for plans in January only on the condition that the company resolve interference problems with GPS providers and other technologies.

“The process we set up has been tremendously successful, yielding a deeper understanding of the issues by both LightSquared and the GPS industry,” said Tammy Sun, an FCC spokeswoman. Responding to criticism that the agency didn’t use its own engineers to test for interference, an FCC official said the agency believes that “companies are in the best position to understand their own technologies.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the FCC process is ongoing.

Agency officials, including Chairman Julius Genachowski, have touted the ambitions of LightSquared, a $14 billion venture financed by billionaire Philip Falcone, saying the company will create thousands of jobs as it erects cell towers and brings cellular and high-speed Internet service to remote areas. The venture also seemed to support the Obama administration’s goals to spread mobile broadband service to more Americans. While the FCC considered LightSquared’s plans, Falcone donated huge sums to the Democratic Party and met with White House officials — facts reported in July by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News.

When asked whether the White House influenced the FCC on LightSquared’s waiver, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said: “The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency with its own standards and procedures for considering these types of decisions, and we respect that process.”

Within the FCC, a senior official said the chairman’s office didn’t seek enough input from the agency’s five-member commission when it moved forward in January on the conditional approval for LightSquared.

The approval was “a fait accompli,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

Officials from other agencies have said LightSquared’s technology, if allowed to become fully operational, would pose grave problems.

The Federal Aviation Administration said LightSquared’s plan would cost billions of dollars to retool navigation systems — and could even lead to the deaths of as many as 800 people over a decade through airplane accidents, according to an internal FAA report.

The Defense Department said the precision of its drones and other technology would be harmed by devices on LightSquared’s network that would crowd out signals for the military’s GPS technologies.

The satellite network could also disrupt hurricane tracking, according to industry officials and GOP lawmakers who held a Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on LightSquared on Thursday.

Committee Chairman Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.) wanted to know the FCC’s next steps.

“Although the FCC has stated it will not allow LightSquared to begin commercial service without first resolving the interference issue, nothing actually prevents the FCC from moving forward at this point,” he said.

Democrats at the hearing noted that nothing has been finalized and expressed confidence that the FCC would ultimately consider all the facts before the satellite system is fully launched. Ranking Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.) said: “The LightSquared proposal to build a nationwide broadband network in the frequencies that sit next to GPS has provoked enormous controversy. However, I do not believe that the FCC would make a decision that compromises GPS services.”

But GOP lawmakers and members of a coalition formed by the GPS industry also noted that the spectrum used by LightSquared was never intended for cellphones. The FCC in 2002 granted a licence to LightSquared, then known as SkyTerra, on the condition that its primary business would be to provide services for satellite phones.

This is a case where “sufficient homework was not done” by the FCC, Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said at the hearing.

As GBTV Launches, Former Fox News Host Glenn Beck Claims Online TV Has Killed The Networks

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 07:44 PM PDT

GBTV is now on the air, or on the Web, at least, with the first new Glenn Beck Program having streamed online. But will Glenn Beck actually make money from an Internet-only, subscription-based television network? Most analysts seem to think so, amazingly.

GBTV

In June Glenn Beck launched GBTV, an online television channel only available to subscribers (paying between $4.95 and $9.95-per-month). This came after Beck parted company with Fox News.

The mainstay of GBTV is a two-hour show similar in style to his old network offering. And the first episode of that show has now played out live to an estimated 230,000 people who have already stumped up the cash.

To mark the occasion The Wall Street Journal has taken a long, hard look at the subscription model Beck has used and asked whether the ultra-conservative host will be able to make this work.

Networks Are No More

The key quote from The WSJ article is:

“I think networks are a thing of the past. I don’t know anybody under 30 who is watching television the way I watched television. Technology has allowed people to change the way they consume the news, and we want to be where people are going.”

Beck is bang on the money there. Although many of us still watch TV, we’re increasingly watching it when we choose to, either by the likes of TiVo and Sky Plus, or on-demand online via the likes of Hulu and BBC iPlayer. And the next stage on from that is surely dedicated online TV networks built around genres, brands, or personalities.

Revenue Vs. Profit

This seems like the perfect forum for Beck. While people who hate him and his political views may have tuned in for a laugh while he was on Fox News, none will want to subscribe to GBTV, meaning all the viewers will be on his side. And as it’s effectively his own network he’ll also have complete editorial control, so expect more overblown conspiracy theories and utter nonsense falling from his lips than ever before.

The question, however, is whether Beck can make money doing this. BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield estimates will generate $27 million in revenue within the first year, while Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici suggests Beck’s revenue will eventually top $100 million. However, as NewTeeVee accurately points out, this isn’t an all-profit undertaking by any means, with production and bandwidth costs likely to be high.

Conclusions

I actively dislike Glenn Beck, but I take my hat off to him for trying to go his own way with GBTV. And in a strange way I hope he succeeds where so many others have failed. He has at least realized, unlike so many in television, that the Internet has changed things massively and forever.

 


There could be an interesting twist to the already-compelling tale of who is going to acquire Hulu. Because it looks as though money-is-no-object Google is playing hardball in its attempts to secure the longform content it has long desired.

Google Outmaneuvers Rival Hulu Bidders

The bids for Hulu are apparently all in and being mulled over by the company and its content partners. Four made the final cut, with three – Amazon, Yahoo, and the Dish Network – all hitting the $1.5 billion – $2 billion range for Hulu, Hulu Plus, and guaranteed rights to the content exclusively for two years. And then there is Google, which, according to AllThingsD, has rather more ambitious plans in mind.

What these ambitious plans actually are remains unclear, but sources are saying this is “a different acquisition, on a larger scale.” Which could mean a number of different things.

It isn’t even clear as to whether Google has entered a formal bid or has merely made a ballsy approach with an unwritten check in hand. Which may mean the whole process slows down from this point as Hulu decides what is in its best interests. Which may not be to take Google’s money, no matter how generous the offer.


YouTube + Hulu = Deadly Combination

The reason for this is that were Google to secure Hulu it would own a huge chunk of the online video sector. It already has YouTube, the most popular video destination on the Web, and adding Hulu and its longform content to its lineup would be a massive boon for the search giant.

Google knows that premium content is key, and that is where Hulu comes in. However, Hulu is owned (for the most part) by the same TV networks that are running scared of Google and its approach to offering up content for free and making money from advertising. Which could see them put a kibosh on any potential deal.

Can you imagine how powerful Google would become with both YouTube and Hulu under its wing? Too powerful for the networks, I’d suggest.

Conclusions

The Next Web predicts a Google/Hulu tie-up by Christmas, but I disagree. I think Hulu’s owners are more likely to take the safe option and sell to one of the other bidders. Unless, of course, these mysterious big plans are advantageous to the networks…